If you found your way to my post “Homeschool Kindergarten- The corona semester”, you are probably like me, having to keep your children home from school due to the COVID-19.
Life in Belgium
Here in Belgium, all school lessons will be suspended starting today, March 16. However, the government called on citizens not to rely on grandparents to look after children meaning schools will still be responsible for providing care when parents have no choice but to work and for those who work in health care. The suspension of classes is until at least after Easter break. So many of you like me have to keep your children home. Yay?
My ‘dream’ of homeschooling (something very uncommon in Belgium) is coming true. But I know that my “dream” is considered a nightmare for others. I sympathize with those parents who still have to go out to work or are working from home with children already bored since this weekend.
I truly know that staying at home with kids can be a challenge, but it is what it is for now and we all need to try and make the best of it I suppose. But parents, do what you need to do to keep your sanity.
For me it, it’s having a schedule, for others, it’s switching on the TV for the kids while you go take a bath…it’s ok (yes, I’m thinking of you friend). These are unexpected times.
Schools have asked the parents to not treat this time as an extra school vacation but to try and keep our children academically motivated and busy. Some schools even providing homework and objectives.
So here I’m sharing with you what our homeschool kindergarten- The corona semester (3de kindergarten class, Belgium) looks like for now.
We won’t be very strict in following it, it’s more of a guideline. Right now it’s 10:30 am and my six-year-old is sitting on the table drawing Yoshi character from his new Nintendo Switch game. It’s all good momma!
Pinterest is full of great ideas! Here is my board with ideas I love and tried out. Pin some.
I love Instagram and I love following other moms in particular. One of the tags I follow is actually is #momlife. I love seeing artsy pictures of cute children in cute outfits, I love seeing toys and crafts that I haven’t seen before and I love getting local tips or travel tips to try out with my 6-year-old.
I’m currently inspired & captivated with these 5 Instagram mom bloggers from Antwerp that you must go follow now. Seriously, do it. Now!
My top 5 Antwerp Instagram moms
Name Jessica // Blog: Exploring Life // Instagram: @jessicanobels– Teacher, blogger and an environmentalist with the cutest girls ever. Something about kids and glasses makes my heart melt. Maybe because my son wears them too.
Name: Lynn // Blog: Averechtse // Instagram: @LynnFormesyn – She is not the typical Instagram mom. She mainly uses Instagram to advocate for people with chronic pain (people like me). She is a gifted writer with an honest pen and recently wrote a book. Truly inspiring woman.
Name: Lies // Blog: Liesellove // Instagram:@Liesellove – She is a #momentrepreneur in the digital world and has a wonderful taste in taking colorful pictures of her super cute family. Also very inspiring when it comes to family travels.
So these were my My top 5 Antwerp Instagram moms!
Who would you like to add to this post? I cannot get enough of these strong power mama’s! Leave them for me in the comments and I’ll be sure to check them out!
I’ve decided to share with you guys a mini list of things that have sparked joy for me in the past month. I know when you hear “Sparks Joy” you are probably thinking of the Netflix series with Marie Kondo, about organizing and minimizing your belongings.
I watched that show just before moving last October and I must say, I found it very helpful when sorting through my stuff. The phrase now always pops in my head when organizing or when even shopping for things. Does it spark joy? Does it give me a thrill?
So I’m going to share monthly with you what has sparked joy in the past month for me. It won’t always be things, but it can be an outing, it can be a craft I did with my son, a new recipe I tried out. It can just be anything.
To refresh my memory while writing this post, I first check my Instagram where I share e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g ….I’m an oversharer I’ve been told. 🙊
So here is a list of things that have sparked some Joy and given me a thrill this past month.
This amazing from Teaja that my sister gave me Christmas. I love it so much that I finished it today. *insert sobbing*
My friends spark a lot of joy, especially for helping me out with my crazy cargo bike situation.
This year we’ve started learning bible verses with the ABC’s bible verses printable found on Pinterest. So with Bible verses and Pinterest spark some joy.
This Otterbox. After having gone through several iPhone cases that have either started to flake (the silicon ones) or just would break I gave into buying the Otterbox. I mean, the cases I bought cost just as much. And it has already passed the test, I drop my phone regularly and it’s been saved up until now by the Otterbox.
RMS Signature Set MOD collection is my favorite item! It’s so compact and natural and vegan (the base is coconut oil). It gives me a bit of natural color without irritating my skin. I did have to look up this tutorial to figure out how to use it best.
So that was it for this month. I could have gone on, so many things to be grateful for, but I wanted to keep this post short and clear.
Have you tried/done any of the things on my list above? Any comments you would like to share? Would love to hear.
Will 2020 finally by the year that I get my driver’s license?
I’m a pretty independent person. I have always been able to get from A to B by bike or public transport. I have visited cities, all by myself or with one of my children simply by relying on anything else but driving a car myself.
Independent person. But yet at 41 years of age, I still haven’t gotten my driver’s license. My daughter who is 25 years old will have hers before I have mine.
Well, it started out with me being a single mom at 18. I lived in the city at that time and had other expenses and worries that took priority.
When I moved to the suburbs I got myself a bike. It became a bit more difficult for me to get around, but still not enough for me to want to get a driver’s license just because I couldn’t really afford the driver’s lessons, let alone a car. Even a used one.
First and last try
Then when I got married, my husband encouraged me to get my driver’s license. one summer we 9he) drove to the South of France and that took us 12 hours and my husband had to pull over an hour away from our destination so he could have a nap. How much easier would it be if I too could drive? I started to feel some guilt about him having to drive all of the time.
So in 2013 when I was pregnant I went to take my theoretical exam and I passed the first time. I could already see myself driving our little one to school and being able to get the groceries myself.
But the plan was for my husband to teach me to drive… That did not work out. My husband was impatient, I was pregnant and hormonal…it was just not a good mix and before you knew it, my learners permit expired. *felt like such a failure*
Fast forward to 2020. I am now, unfortunately, a divorcee, chronically ill and a single mom who lives pretty far from school and the hospital were my doctors are, and after having biked 25 km a day to school and back, (plus having had multiple flat tires for no apparent reason), I am admitting defeat.
I’m studying again. Not so much has changed since 2013 luckily and I remember most things. I will hopefully be able to do the theoretical exam this week.
The next step will then be the driver’s lessons. I will have to take 20 hours of lessons AND THAT’S NOT CHEAP! *praying for the winning lottery ticket*
After the lessons pray some more and try to find an affordable second-hand vehicle and drive on a learner’s permit for 9 months. Then I have to take the practical exam and by the end of 2020 have my driver’s license, if God willing.
Sounds simple enough, eh? But I’m still skeptical. The will is very much there, I long for independence. But nothing seems to come easy to me. I’m sure it won’t be without any (mainly financial) hurdles.
So please tell me I’m not the only 40+ year old without her driver’s license. Can you share with me some positive stories? Prayers are also most welcome, we sure need them. 😅
I just came across this post from the Bored Panda shared on Facebook, 30 minutes after writing this post! We got this!
Who is Sinterklaas? Saint Nicholas explained, hereby me! A Canadian mom of three living in the Antwerp province of Belgium.”
‘Sinterklaas” and of course “Zwarte Piet”. Maybe you just moved to this side of the globe and wonder who the heck is this guy that you are seeing all over the place in the form of chocolate and speculaas cookies? He kind of looks like Santa, maybe Santa looks like the Pope here in Belgium/Netherlands?
Even though Saint Nicholas brings presents like Santa, there are quite some big differences. And try explaining that to a 6 six-year-old. More about that in another post.
Here in Belgium, it’s a big big thing. It’s quite as magical as growing up with Santa. Books about Saint Nicholas are read in schools. You can see Saint Nicolas arriving from Spain at the Antwerp harbor from your parent’s shoulders or watch it on tv. You can visit him at the mall and sit on his lap, just like Santa. Saint Nicolas even came to read at our local library. And then on the eve of the 6th of December, the children put out one of their shoes, put a carrot in it or some sugar cubes for the beautiful horse of Sinterklaas. Some children like to even put out a bottle of beer for Saint Nick. Quite different from putting out cookies and milk for Santa.
Sinterklaas is a celebration that is celebrated in the Netherlands and Belgium, but where does it actually come from? Have Sinterklaas and Piet always looked like this? And are the Netherlands and Belgium the only countries where it is celebrated? In short, do you know Saint Nicholas? A piece of history.
Saint Nicholas, the saint
Sinterklaas currently lives nice and warm in Spain. Once a year he comes to the Netherlands and Belgium on his steamboat to bring us all presents. However, he has not always lived in Spain, has not always had a steamboat and has not always been called Sinterklaas, but Saint Nicholas.
Saint Nicholas was as the story goes, a monk who was born in the year 280 AD in Asia Minor, now Turkey in the village of Patara. Nicholas was praised in his time for his dedication to his faith and goodness of action. He was a rich man who found joy in giving. Nikolaas was loved by children because he was generous and very friendly to them. He loved doing good deeds, the best-known being that he would have saved 3 sisters from going into slavery and prostitution by giving them a dowry so they could get married. In the course of time, Nicholas grew his popularity and later the church renamed him Saint Nicholas, the saint, patron of both children and sailors.
From Turkey to the Netherlands
The stories of Saint Nicholas became more and more popular and spread over the world via land and sea over time. Sailors took the stories to Italy, where they subsequently spread through Switzerland, Austria, and eventually from Germany to the Netherlands. The journeys made by the stories of St. Nicholas made the story and the face of Sinterklaas change a little to what was celebrated by the people at that time. Sinterklaas, for example, has many similarities with the Germanic god Wodan (also known as Odin). This god flew through the air with a horse and had a large white beard, staff, and red cloak. On his shoulders, he had 2 black ravens who told him about the actions of the people and sometimes he crawled through the chimney of people to scatter seeds in honor of fertility.
A trace of the journey that made the story of Sint Nicholas can be found in different parts of the world. These celebrations show that the sweet story of Sinterklaas that we know today used to have a much darker tone where Piet was sometimes depicted as a demon and where the roe (symbol of fertility) was used to beat women when she left walked down the street.
Such celebrations symbolize the good and the evil and are still celebrated today in countries such as Austria, Switzerland, southern France, Macedonia and even on our own Wadden Islands. These unique celebrations have been preserved because they originated in more isolated places in, for example, mountain villages or on the Wadden Islands where it is more difficult for outsiders to get into local opinion.
Sinterklaas, as he is known to us today, with his loyal servant Zwarte Piet and having a steamboat plus living in Spain, was conceived by the Dutch teacher Jan Schenkman. Jan Schenkman, born in 1806, was the first to write the Sinterklaas story in its current form in a picture book, a story that consists of several books. In his first booklet called “St. Nicholas and his servant,” he gave Zwarte Piet a page suit, clothing worn by squires and introduced new elements such as the steamboat and living in Spain. He also wrote several poems and was the creator of songs such as “Zie ginds komt de stoomboot uit Spanje weer aan“.
From Santa Claus to Santa Claus
For example, the Sinterklaas party as we know it today has come a long way and in its journey, it has been adapted in every place to what best suited the people of that time. Just as the Dutch and Belgians received the Sinterklaas story from their neighbors, so did Dutch immigrants bring the Sinterklaas story by sea to America, from which the Christmas story ultimately emerged. You can find more about the origin of the Christmas story on the website of History.com, follow the link here.
If you did not grow up with Sinterklaas, what were your first thoughts when experiencing this magical time of the year?
How do you explain Sinterklaas or even Santa to your children?
I do not want to lie to my child, but I also do not want to rob him of these magical memory makers and so I’m just waiting until he figures it out himself. If he will ask me at some point whether Sinterklaas exists, I will just simply ask him what he thinks and see from thereon.
Traveling around Antwerp (and the rest of Belgium)
Taking the train in Antwerp (or the rest of Belgium) is not like taking the Rocky Mountaineer train back home in Canada where you can maybe be lucky to have a chance to see a wild bear or see the beautiful snowy mountaintops. But even if you probably won’t get to see a wild bear here in Belgium, it’s still one of my favorite ways to travel around as I can see the countryside or spot beautiful mansions coming into Antwerp-Berchem station. So diverse.
But there are of course other means of traveling if you don’t have a car during your stay here and so let me share with you what I have figured out about traveling around Belgium, especially Antwerp.
This is based on me living here for more than 20 years now! (wow)
If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment and I’ll do my best to follow up quickly. 👌
Trains: Being small has its advantages! All cities and villages are very easily accessible in Belgium. Normally you can commute very quickly from one city to another with the NMBS. Compared to other European countries, train tickets are also relatively cheap. For example, from Brussels to Antwerp you pay 15€ return.
A weekend ticket (Friday from 7 pm to Sunday evening) returns and is 50% cheaper than the standard price. A Go pass costs € 53 for young people under 26 and lets you choose from which station you go to for only € 5.30 per ride (10 per card), a Go Unlimited Week pass (-26y) costs € 15 / week or € 25 per month.
Buses and trams: You can count on De Lijn in the Flemish cities. A paper ticket for this means of transport costs € 3 (for one hour) or a pass for 7 €. You can also buy a ticket through the app: m-ticket for 1.80 € or via text message € 2.25. For more info and options click here for De Lijn website. In Wallonia, the transit company is called TEC. There you pay depending on where you going. buying a ticket on the bus is the most expensive option. You pay € 5 for a day pass. You can also buy tickets in most newspaper shops. For more info follow the TEC link here.
Other means of transport: Belgian cities are really not big. From most Belgian stations you can reach the center within a five-minute walk. Moreover, by walking you will often walk through much nicer streets that are too narrow for buses or cars.
I am not a bicycle specialist or a child development expert. I’m a mom and cyclist. Talk to your pediatrician about when biking with your baby is appropriateand take your time at finding the right (Longtail cargo) bicycle for you and your family.
A Longtail bike what? And should I make the switch?
When a friend of mine posted a picture of their new longtail bike on Facebook I was instantly fascinated by it. I had never heard of it and quickly giving it a google I found that this has already been a big thing in the States. Weird that in a country where people bike a lot I hadn’t seen one already, but after doing some research it’s obvious that it is becoming quite popular.
What did I find out?
FROM WHAT AGE CAN YOUR CHILDREN RIDE ALONG?
The age at which you can start carrying your child on a bike is a contested issue. Basically your child needs to have the neck strength to comfortably sit-up on their seat. Usually, this is a skill that they learn between six and twelve months. Please note this does not mean that a child can sit up for hours at a time. If you are planning a cycling holiday with longer trips, stop regularly. Parents who are eager to start cycling with children this young can find themselves in a quandary as to what is safe, legal, and practical!
PROS AND CONS
Depending on the model, a load capacity of +100 kg to +200 kg.
Possibility of comfortably transporting several children.
Possibility of mounting two bicycle seats at the rear.
Large bicycle bags so you can take a lot with you.
Light, narrow and maneuverable like an ordinary bicycle.
Your child (ren) is (are) close. That is a nice idea and also cozy.
Possibility to carry other bikes. This way, your child can cycle until he/she is tired and then take a seat at the back.
Many different options for accessorizing the bike.
Although limited, this bike requires just a little more storage space.
Your child (ren) are also subject to the weather elements.
The children sit behind you, which makes communicating a bit more difficult than in the case of a bicycle seat in the front or a cargo bike, for example. But I still find it hard to converse with my while he is in the front carrying cargo bike and the top is on.
Most models have a high step.
Equipping the bike as required requires extra investment.
Choosing the right Longtail.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT LONGTAIL
There are different types of longtail bikes. What should you pay attention to during your purchase?
What do you want to use the bike for? How much weight do you plan to carry? Depending on the model you can carry more (+200 kg) or less (+100 kg) weight. Attention extra weight also requires extra pedaling power. Try to be realistic about this. Carrying 200 kg without extra support is a challenge anyway.
A number of models use smaller wheels in the front and / or rear. This is to lower the center of gravity and thus create a more stable driving experience. A lower luggage rack also makes it more accessible for children to step on their own. A disadvantage is that your load space becomes proportionally smaller.
Are you a mileage eater or do you have another reason why you can use extra pedal assistance? In the case of a longtail cargo bike, the extra weight that you can carry provides an extra reason to consider electrical support. But just like with other bicycles, electric drive is accompanied by an extra financial investment.
Most longtail bikes are equipped as standard for transporting additional luggage. If you want to dress them up for the safe transport of children, then you are obliged to install additional accessories, which entails an additional cost. An advantage is that many different combinations are possible: Monkey Bars, two bicycle seats, one cushion, and one bicycle seat, an extra handlebar and footrests, and so on.
The different models available have a different range of gears. You need to be aware of the environment you will be biking in. If you cycle regularly through hilly terrain or over bridges, more gears can be useful. The more bicycle gears, the more cycling comfort.
Measure well in advance how much space you have available to park your bike. The length of the different models can vary considerably.
Be aware that the bicycle has a sound standard. The bicycle is intended to accumulate a reasonable amount of weight. For ease of use, it is therefore essential that the standard bears this weight when stationary.
Some models have a ‘one size fits all’ frame, others have different options. If it is intended that you and your partner both use the bicycle, this can help determine your choice.
THE LAST TIP …
Always try the longtail bike! A round at the bicycle repair shop in front of the door is really insufficient. A serious bicycle mechanic will always give you the opportunity to take a test drive. If you are going to test, take your children with you. So you know what it feels like when the bike is loaded. By testing different bikes, you notice the differences in weight, stability, ease of use, etc. Is the distance between the handlebars and saddle comfortable for you? Can your children get on it easily? Is the bike stable?
WHAT WILL I DO?
Well, I’m still busy with my driver’s license and that will take at least another 10 months. But even if I would have one, I would still ride a bike most of the time as I believe that it is better for the environment and I just enjoy this time together with my son.
Whether I would buy a Longtail, I have to say that I am inclined to. I have been riding a ‘normal’ bike with my son on the back (because of a flat tire on my cargo bike) for the past week and it does ride easier than a cargo bike, it’s just a bit too small at the back for my almost 6-year-old. Easier to handle. I have testdrived a Yuba already and would like to try out a few others and so who knows.
Bakfiets & cargo bikes-festival./ ANTWERP- This is only once a year (next one is on the 14th of March 2020) but it’s a great way to see what’s out there, hear testimonials and have some great truck food. 😀
What else can I pack? Did I pack it logically? What should I get rid of?
My Lord, the amount of crap people collect over the years. “oh, here is a museum ticket form our trip to the south of France from nine years ago…”
I am sooooo ready to do some Marie Kondo type of organizing and go ridiculously minimalistic.
However…even though my brain wants it…that other part of me is having a hard time letting go of useless mementos from another life.
I hate moving
The inevitable is happening. We have to. I want to move. But…
I hate moving. It is expensive, stressful, tiring and I always worry something will go wrong (broken or lost items, etc). I also don’t like leaving places I feel comfortable in. When I live somewhere I get to know the area, the layout, the people, the transit times, etc. Sometimes (if I am not moving far) only a small amount changes, but it is still an adjustment and settling in can be daunting.
I do my best to overcome any issues by cleaning, making lots of lists, packing and planning ahead, but it doesn’t always help to assuage the stress. Instead, I try to focus on the good things that will come out of it. In our upcoming move, it is the garden we are looking forward to and the central heating. We have been freezing our butts off these past few winters so we will be moving just in time.
It might be a small thing, but sometimes having even just one good point, can help to alleviate a lot of new.
The best work-friendly coffee shops in Antwerp? Why?
Have a big term paper due, studying for exams, or need a change of scenery while working from home? I asked my friends on social media where they love to go and I tried ALL the suggested coffee shops suitable for students and professionals alike. I grabbed some coffee and got down to business to find the top spots for (cold) brews, savory bites, free WiFi, and plenty of outlets. So order a beverage and look at my notes on Antwerp’s best coffee shops for studying or work. After all, espresso and efficiency go hand in hand, especially if your a mom like me, then you just need coffee to be efficiant.
Here are to my honest opinion, the best 5 work-friendly coffee shops in Antwerp.
This is probably my number 1 favorite place to go to, “Viggo’s coffee”. Not only because it’s near to the Roosevelt Plaats where I take the bus home from but because the owner and staff are a-m-a-z-i-n-g, the coffee (ask to smell the choices) is extraordinary. Pastries are delicious! I used to have a cappuccino there with oat milk, but now I usually order a “Dirty Chai” Yum, yum!
The sitting area is clean, retro and comfy just as I like it, plus there is a long communal table if you feel like chatting with other customers, or you can just go and sit somewhere more private, it’s up to you. Free Wifi of course!
Just behind the Central Station lies the quirky ‘Vitesse coffee shop.” I was drawn to it due to the weird combination of its slogan “coffee & cycling” — two things I LOVE! I was not disappointed. Vitesse is a pretty cool, cozy cafe where you can get some work done, read, do some people-watching, or just spend some quiet time over a cup of coffee. As its name suggests, the place has a cycling theme with some cycling-related gear artfully displayed throughout the shop. Most importantly, of course, is that the baristas here serve some really good coffee!
This place is on my list of the top 5 work-friendly coffee shops in Antwerp because it serves the BEST coffee e-v-e-r! They roast the coffee beans themselves. That’s just so awesome and so yummy. You can imagine the smell while walking in.
The interior has pretty eclectic mismatched furniture and a shelves covered in coffee paraphernalia. The atmosphere is really cosy inside and out. Plus the staff are so welcoming and great at making you a good coffee.
I’m really a coffee snob and so when I’m craving some good quality coffee, this is the place I go to.
Coming it to this place just made me happy. It had again the lovely retro feel to it that I like and that countertop!!! So Belgian, so inviting! A friend did comment that she found the coffee, so,so.
Located a few streets from the main shopping street, Meir, but located in a very nice shopping area also. Fresh, Bio, Local, Good and relaxing! It surely deserves a spot on the best work-friendly coffee shops in Antwerp list.
This place is a beat off track and located outside of the major touristic attractions. It is mostly visited by locals and visitors from the nearby hospital. You choose your food from the counter, and up you go. Food is fresh, delicious and healthy, there is plenty of choices, I highly recommend the “chili sin carne”. They have a large selection of coffee, tea and desserts or snacks. Finally, there is a nice courtyard out back to sit down and relax in the warm days. Take care it is closed at 8pm and also on weekends. I would avoid it during lunchtime as it gets packed.
They also have some toys and books to keep little children occupied while eating. Yay!
So these were my top 5 work-friendly coffee shops in Antwerp. I’m a mom, who loves coffee and needs a break from home from time to time and who wants to write somewhere other than her bed.
What other places should I also check-out? Always looking for the newest trendiest and yummiest place to-be. Extra points if they are child friendly (as in healthy children’s menu’s and some toys/books to keep them occupied. Major points if they have a play area.)
So bye bye July, what a month you were. The heatwave nearly killed me, thank God that it only lasted about 3-4 days.
EEEEEEEEEEH, I’m a born and bred Canadian. I like my summer’s warm, but not scorching hot. What I really love is the fall, it’s my favorite season but it was the winter that I was dreaming for during that heatwave. I made a promise to God that I would NEVER complain about the rain again and I’m sticking to it.
So for besides those 4 days in hell where you could hardly move, we had a great summer already.
I would not be a mom blogger if I did not share with you another list of must doe’s, just to give you all some inspiration so here are the best summer activities we did so far.
Just a reminder: I’m a Canadian native living in the suburbs of Antwerp Belgium. I’m a mom of three, with two “kids” still living at home. My 25-year-old daughter and my 5-year-old son. We are sometimes accompanied by our two Doxies Toby and Charlie. And we travel mainly by cargo bike or transit.